Style Question: Should I be strictly dressing only for my body type? Or can I bend the rules?
Alexis wrote in to ask in response to my constant harping about how I have an inverted triangle body shape and tend to dress for it.
Would you wear something that an inverted triangle is “not supposed to wear” if you felt good in it or didn’t have anything better?
How stylin’ do I need to be? How much do I need to listen to logic, and when can I just look like a schlum?
Excellent question! I myself, have asked the same.
1. I tend to avoid looking like a schlum
I am not entirely certain that my interpretation of ‘schlum’ is the same as anyone else’s, but I tend to avoid looking like one.
Schlum to me tends to mean ‘sloppy’, ‘messy’, or ‘not-as-good-as-I-could-look’.
I don’t wear sweatpants, sweatshirts, or anything with the word ‘sweat‘ in it out in public (my last pair ripped but even those were housebound pants).
Honestly, I think it is just as easy and as comfortable to throw on a blazer or a nice comfy sweater with a t-shirt, some jeans and flats as it is to wear sweat-wear with trainers.
To put it another way, I would like to always present myself in the best light possible for these major reasons:
(A) You never know who you will run into
I have been out looking less than great (and feeling it), and in the oddest places I’ve run into professional acquaintances, colleagues, and people I generally would like to not look like a schlum in front of.
I am not saying that you should dress to the nines every day, but you should at least make sure you look better than you feel, if you are having an off day; otherwise your personality and banter will have to make up for it.
(B) People judge appearances before you even open your mouth
Sad but true.
10 seconds is all it takes.
(C) I feel better when I look nice
When I am out in a less-than-great outfit that I know is not the best on me for whatever reason — I am uncomfortable in it, I know it makes me look strangely disproportionate — I don’t feel good.
Never mind that I feel like everyone is staring at me fuss and adjust my clothing, and this is probably not the case 99% of the time, but whatever it is, I do not feel good in it, so why would I subject myself to that?
2. Taking photos of my outfits has helped immensely
I started it only because I started Instagramming @saverspender, but as I posted outfits, I realized that some items were just not working for me.
In my head they looked good. I thought it would be fine, and it looks good, but once I took a photo, I realized how strange I looked because the hemline was off, the footwear was not correct, or my shoulders just looked HUGE compared to the rest of my body (inverted triangle body shape syndrome).
Case in point: This plaid shirt is too oversized and loose for my body type especially when everything else is so sleek on the bottom. The actual plaid print also makes my shoulders look a little oversized.
Therefore, after experimenting, I concluded that boyfriend shirts don’t work if they billow out like that on me, and I can only really wear tailored, structured shirts with nipped in waists to give me definition.
In addition, these boyfriend plaid shirts are checkered with square shapes all over as their main print, and this makes my top half look even bigger. If I wore plaid on the bottom it would be a better balance because it would make my bottom half look larger.
You can see that in the photo above (slightly), the big red and black checks make things look bigger up top.
The only exception to oversized shirts for me are my Equipment silk oversized shirts because I wear them like jackets, and their drape is much better on my body. It clings a little more to my body when it is left open, and doesn’t have a way of widening my top.
They are also solid colours and not plaid or large checkered prints.
Here’s another terrible outfit that doesn’t work because the layers look weird, the necklace is not right for that neckline and it generally is not a good look on me.
And this last one is one I regret highly. The boots are all wrong for the dress, the hemline is too short for the cardigan, the cardigan is too blousy, and the tall boots, the belt is too wide for the style of dress, and it just looks so.. wrong.
I highly recommend taking a quick shot of yourself each time you wear an outfit to see what others see.
Preferably BEFORE you wear it, not after.
Of course, being too self-critical is never healthy but if you are objectively looking at an outfit rather than feeling like you are less than perfect, it can be really helpful and constructive to do so.
3.I always adhere to what looks good 99.99% of the time
I rarely ever deviate from these inverted triangle body shape rules:
- No skinny spaghetti straps on clothing
- No strapless clothing
- Nothing with capped or ruffled sleeves
- No padded shoulders in anything or exaggerated shoulders
- Lapels are to be slim and not exaggerated to enhance my shoulders
- V-necks only, no boat necks, crewnecks or square necklines
- Always try to define a waist somewhere with the clothing, a belt, whatever
- Volume is your friend on the bottom (A-line skirts, wide leg pants)
Examples of excellent outfits that adhere to the above:
I confess to not owning many wide-legged pants. I own trousers, but I only own two pairs of true wide-legged pants; one being this loose, awesome navy tencel and another being jeans which I have yet to wear.
4. I only bend the rules if it is a piece I think is incredible (very rare)
I am ruthless in avoiding items that I know will not make me look good. (See Rule above).
HOWEVER, you will notice that I wear skinny jeans and own one or two skinny strapped items in my wardrobe, but I always try my best to balance it out by playing my shoulders down or wearing a belt to create some sort of hourglass shape.
Here’s a great case in point, this pinstriped bustier top has skinny spaghetti straps:
I made it work even with skinny jeans because I put a blazer over it (structured, no shoulder pads) to cover the spaghetti straps and trick the eye visually, and I tied the belt on the top to cinch in the waist to make me look more proportioned.
I only did it because I really like this pinstriped top for its pinstripes, the structure, the shape…. but not the straps.
Here is another version of the above, but with a softer lapelled, brighter blazer..
If I can’t make this item work (no matter how much I like it), I don’t.
I just find something else.
Otherwise, I tend not to buy or even try on things I know will look terrible on me.
I can tell even just looking online whether or not it will look good, just by the way the model wears it, its description and the shoulders, etc.
5. I’ve tossed out everything that I can’t wear with confidence
I went through a serious purge when I discovered these rules and got rid of everything I cannot wear with a good conscience with confidence.
There is no point in keeping items you love that look terrible on you in your wardrobe.
You will never reach for them, and you will not look good in them when you do.
It’s a lose-lose situation.
EXTRA: HOW DO I FIGURE OUT MY BODY TYPE?
There’s an excellent post here on that that shows you this diagram and has notes on how to figure out what type you are:
Then from there, it is just a question of googling more about your body type, and trial and error.
Another note I want to make is that you might be TWO body types at once.
No one ever really fits perfectly into one type.
I am for instance, an inverted triangle body shape with an apple body type (I have a little belly).
SO TO ANSWER YOUR QUESTION…
Listen to your gut.
If you really love the piece and can find ways to wear it like I do, such as skinny spaghetti strapped items that I wear a sweater or a blazer over to cover the shoulders, or skinny jeans because I make sure to belt my waist or keep my top half tinier so that it doesn’t look out of proportion, then go for it.
If you can’t make it work with little tips and tricks in styling, then leave it.
If you aren’t sure whether it works or not, ask someone who is somewhat fashion-minded, with an objective perspective and UNAFRAID to tell you her/his true and honest opinion or take a picture and see for yourself.
Bend the logic 0.01% of the time and wear what works the rest of the time so you don’t have to worry about it.